Some of Tapas Konar’s best works are his fine line drawings, which have developed organically. The drawings are juxtaposed with text from disparate sources that have no bearing on these forms. These were part of Konar’s solo exhibition, Erasing the Essential, which was on view at Gallery Charubasona till March 19. The exhibition was curated by Somaditya Datta. Born in 1953, Konar passed out from the Indian College of Arts, Rabindra Bharati University, in 1980.
When one looks carefully at the tangle of lines and text, certain forms begin to emerge. These forms have been appropriated from multifarious sources and although they appear to be free-flowing, disjointed, arbitrary images that have emerged from the unconscious, these are actually tight compositions that capture the rhythm and the cadence of tribal and folk art. Some of the drawings even directly quote well-known motifs. Konar’s textual notes, at times, explain their origins.
These drawings are fraught with tension as the artist is conscious of the huge gap that exists between our middle-class realities, their pettiness and lusts, and the vast and rich repository of our traditional arts that the artist alludes to. He often savagely distorts these figures, exposing the irrationality that is such a big part of our existence. By constantly referring to the two levels of our existence, Konar’s works acquire a different dimension altogether, even though we are tied to our mundane realities.
This becomes clearer when Konar uses familiar deities such as the elephant god, Ganesha, and the armature of other gods and goddesses and disfigures them in way that they are deprived of their divinity. Konar brings to mind the works of the American artist, Willem de Kooning, as he alludes to our traditions and subverts them at the same time by turning the forms grotesque. Konar pulls off this method to great effect even when he does mixed-media works in colour as long as the works are spare. In the more ambitious works, monotony often sets in.